This Exoneree Wants Steven Avery & Brendan Dassey To Get New Trials — Here's Why
Months after the Netflix docuseries Making a Murderer fascinated America, many are still fighting for justice for Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, who some believe were wrongfully convicted for the murder of Teresa Halbach. The latest to join the fight is Jarrett Adams, who spent nearly 10 years in prison for a sexual assault in Wisconsin he didn't commit. Adams is calling for Avery and Dassey to receive retrials, and told USA Today Network-Wisconsin's Andy Thompson: "I don't know if they are guilty. What I'm saying is they deserve a new trial because the [law enforcement] tactics were downright unethical." The Manitowoc County Sheriff's Office has always adamantly denied any wrongdoing in either case.
Adams was released from prison in 2007 with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, the same group that led an appeal that got Avery out of prison for his prior conviction for sexual assault. Adams now has a law degree from the Loyola Law School in Chicago and is an adjunct professor there, teaching a class on wrongful convictions. From his personal experience and following the story of Making a Murderer, he believes Avery and Dassey were treated unfairly. "If you want to preserve the justice system, you have to give them a new trial," Adams told USA Today Network-Wisconsin.
Adams was arrested with two other teenagers when he was 17 for a crime that took place while the Chicago native was visiting the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Not able to afford an attorney, Adams was given a court-appointed lawyer who allegedly didn't call the key alibi witness or argue any defense during the trial, resulting in a mistrial and eventually a 28-year sentence for Adams.
Failing at every other appeal, his case eventually reached the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned Adam's conviction because of his lawyer's "failure to investigate" and present an available defense that likely would have led to a different outcome, given the "relatively thin evidence."
While the attorneys' failure to investigate or provide a defense certainly wasn't the case for Avery (most can agree that Jerry Buting and Dean Strang offered a compelling defense), Adams thinks Avery and Dassey at least deserve a second trial. Avery is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, though his new lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, is working tirelessly to find new evidence to prove his claimed innocence or show that original evidence was planted (an allegation Manitowoc law enforcement denies). Dassey, sentenced to life in prison with a chance for early release in 2048 when was only a teenager, also has new lawyers trying to get his case appealed. They submitted a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which would bring Dassey back to court to question his detention, and the Milwaukee judge could rule on the petition any time.